CRAIGE: Tottenham, Liverpool Impress in Early Stretch
The Beautiful Game

It seems a bit ridiculous to already be thinking about the end of the season in October, but the current Premier League table very much looks like it could be set in stone. As of this weekend, the top four would end up being Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham. All four teams are off to stellar starts.

To some, it may be far-fetched to think that both Liverpool and Tottenham will finish ahead of Chelsea or Manchester United, but the two teams undoubtedly deserve to be there. The Spurs are the only team to still be undefeated while the Reds are lighting up the league, a far cry from the team that struggled to win games last year.

It seems silly that Tottenham, a team frequently derided by the other London teams for merely being Tottenham, is doing better than the mighty Manchester United. It is an incredible feat made even more impressive considering that star striker Harry Kane has been injured for most of the season.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has proved that the Spurs play a team game and do not rely on one star player, lending credibility to his team’s lofty aspirations. As we have seen with Leicester City, one player’s absence or severe dip in form can cause an entire slew of problems that leaves a team mired in doubt.

This is not at all the case for Tottenham, who have compensated for Kane’s absence with Son Heung-Min, who has scored four goals in his last five games. In addition to Son, Dele Alli has also stepped up his offensive game, contributing three goals. The Spurs were even able to overcome an early season injury to world-class goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, demonstrating that the team has bought into Pochettino’s philosophy.

For its first Champions League appearance since the 2010 season, Tottenham is doing very well, with the team in second place after the first round of group stage games. It is very probable that the Spurs will advance out of this group alongside French squad AS Monaco.

Last year’s third-place finish, which saw the Spurs come agonizingly close to winning the title for the first time in 55 years, was clearly no fluke. A healthy Kane will only make Tottenham that much more dangerous.

Going over to Merseyside, it is impossible to not be excited by Manager Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. In just over a year with the team, he has completely rejuvenated a team that was mired in relative mediocrity.

The team’s quick tempo and skill at getting the ball to playmaker Philippe Coutinho frequently leaves teams grasping for straws because there simply is no match for Liverpool’s speed. Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino lead the Liverpool attack and are the reasons that Liverpool is averaging over two goals a game — good for best in the Premier League.

In fact, this trio has entirely relegated striker Daniel Sturridge to the bench with its skill at creating chances. Klopp simply does not need Sturridge to score goals anymore, hinting that his time with the team may be up.

Even the defense — arguably Liverpool’s weakest point — has been relatively solid. A large reason for this is the stellar play of the newly converted left back James Milner. Critics at the beginning of the season derided Klopp’s decision to have a right-footed midfielder play at the position formerly held by the dismal Alberto Moreno, but the reliable Milner has largely silenced them.

While not a natural defender, Milner brings a desperately needed stability to the team. There are still some instances when the defense is highly questionable, but on the whole, the team is much improved in this position. Thanks to Liverpool’s prolific scoring rate, it almost does not matter if the defense falters because the team is highly capable of racking up goals.

The only hiccup for Liverpool thus far has been their embarrassing 2-0 defeat at the hands of the newly promoted Burnley back in Week 2. The loss is a stain on an otherwise successful campaign that raises the question of whether or not the Reds can sustain a title-challenging campaign.

In the past, it has seemed that every time Liverpool looks like a good candidate for winning the title, the team finds some way to humiliate itself. This season however seems to be different. Since that embarrassing defeat, the Reds have gone on to thump Leicester City, Chelsea and Hull City and earn respectable draws against Tottenham and Manchester United.

Aided by the lack of European football, Liverpool has continued to gain momentum and deserves to be considered for at least a top-four finish.

While it is still relatively early, both Tottenham and Liverpool have demonstrated that they are worthy title contenders thanks to their team-first approaches, excellent coaching staff and sheer determination to defy expectations. It is a trend that should continue as the season continues and a trend that I — as an unabashed Liverpool supporter — hope continues.

VanessaCraige-150x150Vanessa Craige is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. The Beautiful Game appears every Tuesday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>